Don’t let stress affect your oral and overall health.
It should come as no surprise that today’s adults feel stressed out more than they ever have in the past. In a society where mobile devices steal our attention, where we are expected to do so much more with less, and where we are dealing with the first global pandemic of our lifetimes, stress is running rampant. But, unfortunately, we often don’t realize just how much stress we are carrying until it is too late.
Failure to address the stressors in our life and take time for some necessary self-care can have serious consequences. For example, stress can suppress our immune systems, upset our digestion, hinder our ability to reproduce, increase the risk of stroke or heart attack, and make us age faster. And if that isn’t enough, a failure to address our stress can make us more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.
However, what might be surprising to you is that your dentist will often know when you are stressed out. During routine dental cleanings and examinations, your dentist can detect oral symptoms of stress. These symptoms often include:
- Orofacial pain.
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMD).
- Mouth sores.
- Gum disease.
Learning how to identify some of the concerns mentioned above can help you take the appropriate steps to remedy the situation faster.
Understanding the telltale dental signs that you are stressed out.
Like we said above, the sooner you can identify the dental signs of stress, the sooner you can remedy the situation and get your body and mind on the path to stress-free living. Here are some tips to address some of the most common symptoms.
Bruxism is the official medical term for grinding your teeth. Those who suffer from bruxism unconsciously clench their teeth when awake or clench or grind their teeth during sleep. Regardless of the type of bruxism you might experience, the chances are it has come on from stress. Though mild bruxism rarely requires treatment, severe bruxism can not only damage your teeth but can also lead to jaw disorders, headaches, and other health-related concerns. Your dentist can help by prescribing a night guard to keep you from grinding your teeth.
Orofacial pain manifests as pain in the head and neck. Symptoms include headaches, ear pain, neck pain, facial burning or stabbing sensations, dental pain, and jaw joint pain. You may also experience tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness, muscular incoordination, or unusual tingling in the head and neck. Orofacial pain can come on quickly or gradually.
Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)
Sometimes referred to as TMJ as the ailment comes from the temporomandibular joint, TMD occurs when there is pain and hindered movement of the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. The TMJ serves as a sliding hinge, and it connects your skull with your jawbone. If you are experiencing TMD, it can make it difficult to chew and sometimes even to speak. Your dentist can help with medications, mouthguards, and physical therapy as appropriate.
Stress can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to mouth sores, such as canker sores. These sores are small spots that have a white or grayish base and a red border. Canker sores appear inside your mouth, often in pairs or more. When your immune system is weak, it hinders your body’s ability to defend itself against germs, which means you are more likely to pick up a bacteria or virus that can lead to the canker sore. In most cases, your canker sores will go away on their own within a week to 10 days. However, if you have a canker sore, avoid spicy foods or items with a high acid content, which can exacerbate the situation.
Note: Canker sores are not the same as cold sores, which the herpes simplex virus (HSV) causes.
When faced with severe stress, we can sometimes skip out on basic hygiene rituals, including our oral health routine. For example, we may stop brushing our teeth twice a day or we may forget to floss. And when we do this, food particles are more likely to get stuck between the teeth, irritating the gums. However, when the body is stressed out, it will produce more cortisol, an anti-inflammatory agent. If cortisol builds around the gums, it can cause mast cells to produce more proteins, increasing inflammation. This means that gum disease and, even worse, periodontal disease, can progress. Further, failure to address your gum disease can cause gum recession.
Let Dr. Cooley-Bentz help you feel less stressed out.
Being stressed out and experiencing dental ailments as a result can be a vicious cycle. Not only are you stressed out to begin with, but now you are likely to become stressed out because of the impact that the stress is having on your body. Thankfully, if you are looking to decrease stress and address the health implications, the team at Cooley-Bentz Dental Associates can help.
If you are located in the East Norriton, PA, area, be sure to request an appointment. Dr. Cooley-Bentz will conduct a dental examination to help you identify the telltale dental signs of your stress. She’ll provide you with a treatment plan to help get you on the path to better oral health and lessening your stress.